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German GP Paddock Notebook – Friday

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Friday at Hockenheim was the first chance we got to see the drivers out on track as free practices one and two took place. Once again, the weather was glorious as hot sunshine beat down on the tarmac, making conditions perfect for running.

Rather predictably, Mercedes dominated proceedings once again, securing a one-two finish in both sessions. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg shared top spot, and had a net time of just 0.041 seconds separating them across the two sessions. Be assured that there will be another enthralling battle between the two on CNBC this Sunday from 7:30am ET.

In the paddock, the journalists and team members were doing their best to keep cool, with the ice cream at Lotus proving to be particularly popular. No word if Kimi got around to nabbing one, though…

Here’s the latest paddock round-up from Hockenheim.

SESSION REPORTS

  • First practice at Hockenheim saw Nico Rosberg make a good start to his home grand prix weekend. The German driver edged out Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets, with Fernando Alonso finishing third.
  • Hamilton redressed the balance in FP2, though, to finish fastest ahead of Rosberg and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi had a firey moment, but took inspiration from Taki Inoue to use a fire extinguisher and put out the small blaze on his car.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Firstly, I must apologise for yet another FRIC pun. However, it certainly has been a topic of debate at Hockenheim this weekend following the FIA’s decision to ban the system from the cars on the grid.

Most of the drivers we spoke to yesterday said that it would make little to no difference, but both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg appeared to notice a bit more of a detrimental difference today. Red Bull certainly looks to have made a step forwards, but we shouldn’t get too carried away: Mercedes’ long run times are still miles ahead of everyone else.

The battle for the final podium position does appear to be wide open. Red Bull is leading by a nose, but with Ferrari, McLaren and Williams all showing good signs of pace this weekend, we could see quite an interesting battle to be ‘best of the rest’. McLaren has been particularly impressive, running with parts that were due to only arrive in Hungary, and both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen will be hoping for a solid result this weekend.

Further back, there was yet more disappointment for Caterham. One journalist in the paddock compared its recent form to that of the now-defunct HRT during its final few months of activity. Both Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi hit trouble during FP2, with a fire on the latter’s car ending his session early.

The team principals’ press conference was a bit of a mixed bag today. Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said that the test of the 18-inch F1 tires had been a success at Silverstone last week, although he was uneasy about the possibility of a tire war in F1. Christijan Albers made his first appearance as Caterham team principal following a crazy few weeks for the backmarker team, and didn’t show a great deal of confidence in the current driver line-up. That said, it’s difficult to see who could replace either Kobayashi or Ericsson given that Carlos Sainz Jr. has been told to forget about F1 for 2014 and to instead focus on his World Series by Renault campaign.

We’ll be back with more from the paddock tomorrow.

German GP TV Times – Saturday 19th July

Free Practice 3: Live Extra 5am ET
Qualifying: CNBC 8am ET

Hill expects Rosberg to be ‘more formidable’ in 2016

xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez  on November 1, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.
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1996 Formula 1 world champion Damon Hill believes that Nico Rosberg will be “more formidable” in 2016 following his back-to-back title defeats to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Rosberg took the title race down to the final race of the year in 2014 before losing to Hamilton, and proved to be the Briton’s closest rival again in 2015, albeit losing the championship with three rounds remaining.

Rosberg endured a five-month winless streak last season that led many to question his ability to battle with Hamilton for a championship, only for the German to answer by winning the final three races of the year.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Hill said that Rosberg showed his true strength with this trio of victories, signalling that he could put up a greater fight to Hamilton for the title in 2016.

“I think he is a little bit more formidable now,” Hill said. “I think after the Austin defeat, that day when he lost the championship and Lewis infamously tossed the cap and he tossed it straight back, there was a moment where Nico said ‘OK, I am not going to take this anymore’ and he did go ahead and win all the remaining races.

“He can go on ahead and become the other world champion’s son [Keke Rosberg won the F1 title in 1982] to become a world champion himself.

“He probably knows time is running out and when you get all those ingredients together you maybe get a little bit of a hardening of the determination. Maybe he will be more determined this year and harder to beat.”

MotoGP to introduce stewards’ panel for 2016 season

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 25:  Marc Marquez of Spain and Repsol Honda Team leads Valentino Rossi of Italy and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP during the MotoGP race during the MotoGP Of Malaysia at Sepang Circuit on October 25, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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The FIM has confirmed that a new, dedicated stewards’ panel will be created for the 2016 MotoGP season following the controversy between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez at the end of last year.

Rossi and Marquez became embroiled in a tense rivalry that saw them clash in Malaysia, with Rossi appearing to raise his leg and cause his adversary to fall from his bike.

Rossi was handed a penalty that dropped him to the back of the grid for the championship decider in Valencia, where Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo clinched a third world title.

The incident did little good of the reputation of the drivers involved nor MotoGP as a whole, prompting officials to create a new stewards’ panel for 2016 that will deal with similar affairs.

Previously, race direction has also dealt with stewarding matters, but these responsibilities will now be split for 2016.

“We want to let race direction focus on managing the races because there are a lot of responsibilities and delicate matters to do,” FIM president Vito Ippolito said.

“We want to let them be free to manage the race but not to involve them anymore with the task of penalizing riders. It needs more time and special dedication.

“On the other side we will have the panel of three stewards. It will be the current race director who is Mike Webb and two more stewards from the FIM.

“One of them possibily also a permanent steward as we think with this structure, with this panel of stewards completely dedicated to judge the behaviour of riders during the races and practice, we can achieve a very high level of decisions.”

Vandoorne was considered for Renault Formula 1 seat

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - JANUARY 25:  Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium and McLaren Honda drives during wet weather tyre testing at Circuit Paul Ricard on January 25, 2016 in Le Castellet, France.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Newly-appointed Renault Sport racing director Frederic Vasseur claims that the French manufacturer considered signing GP2 champion and McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne for its comeback season in Formula 1.

Renault will return to F1 this year with a works team for the first time since 2010, and unveiled its driver line-up of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer at an event in France on Wednesday.

Magnussen was drafted in to replace Pastor Maldonado after the Venezuelan driver’s financial backing fell through and negotiations with the team broke down.

Speaking to DH.be, Vasseur revealed that Vandoorne was considered for the seat before Renault ultimately signed Magnussen for 2016.

“We had to put a cross next to Stoffel. He is under contract with McLaren and the team did not want to part ways,” Vasseur said.

“So we needed someone who was available and our choice was therefore focused on Kevin.”

Vandoorne is set to race in the Japanese Super Formula series in 2016, having tested a car over the winter. Despite winning the 2015 GP2 title in record-breaking fashion, the Belgian is not yet able to make the step up to F1, but looks set to do so with McLaren when either Jenson Button or Fernando Alonso leave the team.

Buemi content with fightback to second in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 6:  In this handout image supplied by Formula E, Sebastien Buemi (SUI), Renault e.Dams Z.E.15 & Sam Bird (GBR), DS Virgin Racing DSV-01, during the Buenos Aires Formula E race at Puerto Madero Street Circuit on February 6, 2016 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E via Getty Images)
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BUENOS AIRES – Sebastien Buemi felt content with his performance in Saturday’s Buenos Aires ePrix after bouncing back from a mistake in qualifying to finish second and extend his lead at the top of the Formula E drivers’ championship.

Buemi locked up during his 200kW lap in qualifying at Puerto Madero to resign himself to 18th position on the grid, handing his rivals an opportunity to overhaul him in the title race.

The Renault e.dams driver produced a spirited display to pick through the order during the race before coming into contention for the win late on after a safety car period.

Although Buemi could not overhaul DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird at the front of the pack, he remained happy with second place in light of his qualifying error.

“The mistake in qualifying was very annoying, because when you have such a good car and such a good team, you want to reward them with the best possible result,” Buemi told MotorSportsTalk.

“But in the end I did my best to come back. I think I did a good job. 18 points are better than zero so happy with that.”

Buemi is now targeting an error-free weekend at the next race in Mexico City as he looks to extend the four-point gap to Lucas di Grassi at the top of the standings.

“Clearly [the result] shows that we have a very strong car and we just need to make sure from now on we don’t miss any points,” Buemi said.

“Putrajaya, the team made a mistake, the car didn’t finish the race. But today obviously I made one [in qualifying] and I tried to work the car to catch it back.

“We’ve seen today that it’s easy to leave the weekend with zero points. I have only four points advantage in the championship, so I’m going to try to expand it as much as possible.”